Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—BoE rate, Abe in Africa, B&N boss, Japanese maids

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What to watch for today

Mark Carney between a rock and a hard place. The Bank of England head faces a dilemma (paywall): though unemployment almost certainly fell in Q4 to 7%, the level at which the bank said it would consider raising interest rates, the economy appears to be softening. Market consensus is that the bank will hold firm today.

Will China’s prices keep cool? Economists expect that inflation in China fell again in December, pulled down by lower food prices. However, if consumer price inflation has begun to pick up, that could put pressure on the central bank to tighten—something that’s proved difficult in the last few months.

Shinzo Abe says “bonjour” to Africa. The Japanese prime minister kicks off a tour that includes a visit to Cote d’Ivoire, marking a Japanese PM’s first-ever visit to a Francophone African country. And it’s about time: Apparently, Ivoirians have a “special fondness for Japanese sports and culture” and are among the continent’s most pro-Japanese.

Will Greek unemployment get better? After improving slightly in July, things took a turn for the worse; today’s data will reveal whether October’s unemployment rate rose even more than September’s 27.4% (pdf).

What Family Dollar says about poor America. For the last while, the performance of the discount store, sometimes read as an indicator of consumer sentiment, has not been great. Its Q4 2013 earnings should hint whether the US economic recovery is trickling down even a little bit.

While you were sleeping

A new probe into banks’ misbehavior. US authorities are investigating eight banks (paywall), including already much-fined JP Morgan, over allegations that they cheated mortgage-bond clients in the wake of the financial crisis. It’s the “first wide-ranging probe into mortgage-bond sales,” says the Wall Street Journal.

H5N1 caused its first death in North America. A resident of Alberta, Canada, died of the H5N1 bird flu virus after having recently returned from China.

Barnes & Noble has a new boss. Michael Huseby, who was running the ailing bookseller’s money-losing Nook e-reader division (and managed to make it lose a little less money), is taking over as CEO. A former CFO, he has a reputation as a cost-cutter, deal-maker and general problem-solver.

Nintendo’s stock popped for no good reason. The Japanese company’s shares soared after China ended its 14-year ban on game consoles, but Chinese gamers have already gone mobile.

The UN warned of humanitarian disaster in Central African Republic. As rumors gather pace that president Michel Djotodia will imminently resign, a deadly case of measles swept a camp of internally displaced people in the capital, Bangui.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on how billions of dollars in secret cash are smuggled into China. “[T]hey’re not vanishing into a wormhole. They never existed in the first place. In the first half of 2013 alone, nearly $100 billion sneaked into China in the form of faked export invoices, according to research by non-profit Global Financial Integrity… Where’s all this money coming from? It probably has something to do with the US Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program…” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Sergio Marchionne won’t unite Fiat and Chrysler. Talk that he will misses how little the two companies’ technologies complement each other, as well as Fiat’s weak balance sheet (paywall).

GM-free Cheerios are a marketing stunt. As Monsanto points out, Cheerios are made mainly from oats, a grain made without any genetic modification.

Stop whining about Uber’s price gouging. The car service is a luxury good, so people who want the government to pass laws against its pricing scheme should just stop using it.

The Egyptian revolution has failed. The arrest of four Al Jazeera journalists is a throwback to Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian regime.

Bitcoin is here to stay. If the Chinese government’s ban on financial companies using the currency couldn’t keep bitcoin prices down, nothing will.

The British government is protecting booze companies.  Politicians scrapped a policy that would make liquor cheaper, despite evidence that it would have reduced crime and alcohol-related deaths.

Surprising discoveries

Reddit has a gun store. Nearly 100 AR-15s sold through the popular online forum have been engraved with the Reddit alien logo.

Maids in America. Japanese maid cafes, where waitresses wear pink and carry out cheesecake orders extremely subserviently—has made the leap to New York’s Chinatown.

247 million more people smoke now than did in 1980. Thanks largely to China, which has added just shy of 100 million smokers. The good news: the overall percentage has dropped from 26% to 18.7%.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, gun engravings, and old cigarette butts to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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